Q: A slate of budget cuts were made in 2017 to address a $227 million shortfall caused by less than anticipated revenue and an expensive fire season. What should the priorities be in the state budget in the next legislative session?
A: The state budget is a direct reflection of our state’s priorities and values. I know from speaking to hundreds of House District 11 voters that what Montanans value most is their families’ future. I firmly believe funding public education and essential services are priorities. A good education vastly improves an individual’s likelihood of living a productive and fulfilling life and it’s good for people’s well-being, it saves money and creates new revenues. We all benefit from Montanans living productive lives, and we all share in the responsibility of maintaining a statewide framework that allows us all to do so.
Q: Do you support a sales tax or other tax increases as a way to shore up the budget and increase revenue?
A: I do not support a state sales tax. I’m in favor of eliminating unfair tax breaks that allow certain individuals and out-of-state corporations to avoid paying their fair share. I also think it is clear specific communities have benefited greatly from enacting a local option tax (resort tax). Local option taxes should be decided on by voters and allowed regardless of the population of the town/community.
Q: Montana’s Medicaid expansion program is set to expire in 2019. Should the state renew this program?
A: I support Medicaid expansion renewal. I am also in favor of I-185, the tobacco tax initiative for funding Medicaid. Sadly, the health-care system we have in our country does not work very well for anybody. If a person needs to see the doctor then they should be able to see a doctor, regardless of how much money they have. If a person has a diagnosis requiring treatment, they should be able to receive it without having to beg for money from friends, family and strangers, or go bankrupt. Medicaid expansion allows 100k Montanans to see the doctor and receive treatment as needed. Unfortunately, we have thousands of hardworking Montanans still unable to access health care because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid expansion but not enough to afford insurance. We need comprehensive changes to our health-care system and we need to demand change on a national level to fully address this issue.
Q: Which other issues would you like to see addressed by the Legislature?
A: Suicide and substance abuse are issues we need to address immediately. Montana leads the nation in suicides per capita and 1 in 10 Montanans is dependent on or abusing alcohol or drugs. These issues go hand in hand and we are failing our communities by waiting until someone is in crisis to address their needs, which has a greater financial cost to our healthcare and criminal justice systems and an even greater human cost. We must do better dealing with these issues and we can.
Q: Why are you the right choice to represent your district?
A: I am ready to fight for the issues House District 11 faces such as public land access, economic opportunity, public education and health care. I have spent the last 23-plus weeks knocking on hundreds of House District 11 doors and what I know now more than ever is this: regardless of political party affiliation, Montanans want representation who is open-minded, focused on common sense solutions and who will work for a good idea without worrying about who gets credit for it. We have no time to waste. This is our lives, our kids, our state, our future. I am the choice on the ballot who is ready to get to work in Helena.